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I am considering my options and interested in graphic designing.

I often hear however, that this job consists of mostly desperation and deadlines. . . mostly a lot of deadlines.

As a graphic designer, would you describe your job as being stressful?

Thanks!

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Nice question! Are you thinking of other alternative careers in particular? Would be easier to answer "stressful compared to [something]". –  Yisela Mar 25 at 3:37
    
Thank you. I guess it would help if I presented a comparison, wouldn't it! Something like the job of an illustrator who has to finish the job before a certain date and is constantly being squeezed for inspiration or ideas. –  Ava Mar 25 at 3:41
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My brother (also a graphic designer) joked with me once that "surely there are less stressful jobs... like tightrope walker." –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 25 at 9:50
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Book recommendation: How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul –  user568458 Mar 25 at 9:53
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It's important to distinguish between stress and distress. Any non-boring job involves some stress; that's why it's interesting and exciting and rewarding. The question is whether the stress is at a level that you are comfortable with -- and that depends as much on the folks you're working with and for as on what you're doing for them. –  keshlam Mar 25 at 20:53

8 Answers 8

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Adding to Emilie's great answer

It's difficult to define what "stressful" is, because it varies from person to person (are designers more stressed than, say, surgeons?), so I'll just focus on the things that I think can make design different from other jobs.

Note: Graphic Design is a HUGE field. You can work in print, in web, in motion... you can do illustration, game design, development. All these specializations have different constrains and stress factors. I'll mention some general ones.

Stress Factor I: Requirements

One of the main "stressful factors", I think, is dealing with requirements from clients - if you are freelancing -, or from other departments - if you are working in a company. I haven't worked for an agency so I can't talk about that :)

You need to understand what the client wants, and deliver something that will work AND fit their expectations. I'll get a bit sensitive here and say that the closer your relationship with art is, the more difficult it can sometimes be to have to adjust your ideas. Most times, it actually challenges you and you end up with something better than you originally thought. Clients also come in all sizes and shapes, and I'm sure any freelancer can tell you a funny/terribly-frustrating anecdote.

Requirements from other departments can also be interesting to handle, as you usually need to work with several people - different expectations.

Stress Factor II: Deadlines and long nights

Deadlines are very well known, we've all had to 'suffer them' from school years. Working for a company, quite simple: You have to make the deadline, usually end of story. As stressful as in any other job.

For freelancers: Being that everything depends on your organizational skills, if you feel you are going to fail a deadline you will probably have to trade in some weekends and long nights. This gets easier as you get more ongoing remote work.

Stress Factor III: Art

I'll keep this one short. In most cases, you will be working for others. As simple as this sounds, if you are a creative person you will feel you have more to give but not enough time or mental energy to do it. If you are lucky, you will work on something that fills that need to think something new, so it is, in the end, quite relative.

Conclusion

Other than the previous, most of my designer friends (and me as well) affirm that they feel lucky to work in something they are passionate about. You can always love what you do, regardless of what it is. If you like design, I think right now is a great moment to be a designer. So many things happening, so much talent available and new ideas coming to life all the time. You will really enjoy meeting and working with other designers. So... it's not bad at all :)

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I think you've left out the 'most' stressful factor of being a graphic designer, and that is "other people's opinions/critique". A graphic designer will often have to suffer some excruciating critique by customers, you sort of cover that under "requirements" but, I don't think people stress enough that "thick skin" is an important part of the equation. So many people go into graphic design thinking they can be creative and that their work will be heralded by all. When in reality the simplest things such as a font style or a specific color can lead to hours/weeks of debate over design choice. –  tremor Mar 26 at 13:24
    
@tremor Excellent point. It probably also relates to the "art" stress factor. But dead on! –  Yisela Mar 26 at 19:29

There are many branches of graphic design and although yes, I've heard all around me about graphic design being stressful jobs, I've managed quite well on that aspect in the past so I would tend to say that where there is a will there is a way. I didn't work much overtime and when I did, I got paid for it. I find there is often a culture of overworking in graphic, of bragging about how crazy X project was, etc.

Consider when looking for a job that not all graphic designers work in advertising agencies (typically more stressul and glamorous), you can try to get a job internally for companies who don't strictly do graphic design and everything in between. As an illustrator, you could even attempt to build a passive income by selling illustrations through image banks. Squeezing your inspiration is part of the reality but I find it gets much easier with time, you get the hang of coming up with good ideas and you do have to reconcile with the fact that not all you do will end up in your portfolio.

The world is full of options, honing your skills will have more doors open for you and allow you more room to set your own conditions.

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It's all relative.

No one lives or dies due to design, so I doubt anyone would say graphic design is nearly as a stressful profession as police, firemen, EMTs, doctors, nurses, etc have.

Then again, I'd wager that graphic design can be more stressful than things like a farm hand, acupuncture therapist, hot air balloonist, etc.

It can be stressful to meet deadlines and work on projects worth thousands of dollars. More so if you work for yourself. But in general, the actual work isn't very stressful. It's the demands of life in general (Freelancing: Do I have enough work to make the house payment? etc.) or "the boss" put on you that may make it stressful.

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I agree with Scott's answer and would like to give you a general perspective.

But, firstly, some stress is good. It keeps you going; does not let you procrastinate and gives you an opportunity to better yourself continually.

In my opinion, everything can be stressful if -

  • If you don't like doing it.
  • If you "want/agree" to do too much of it, too fast.
  • If the work environment (people, resources) is bad.
  • If there is a constant pressure to do more than you can.

I guess if you can watch the above points, you'll be able to strike a balance between acceptable levels of stress versus "breakdown" stress.

Good day! :)

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts! –  Ava Mar 25 at 15:05

Working as a graphics designer is nice. You get to test yourself everyday and as you know practice makes it perfect. Then the unrealistic deadlines come, or the boss want to add something new or change something that took you 2-3 days to make in a few hours just because he thinks it will be simple and easy. All of this get you stressed, you tend to lose sleep, then you get tired and nervous. So yeah, in my opinion working as a graphics designer is stressful. BUT, the moment you get to finish a project, and you get to see the finished project (even if you know it like the back of your palm) all of this go away, you feel acomplished and fullfiled. Bottom line is, working as a graphics designer is great if you like doing it, yes it is stressful but it's worth it. It all depend of what you like to do. I hope I helped.

I'm sorry for using bad grammar but english is not my first language.

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It's mentally demanding. That can be stressful at times. On the flip side, a career that doesn't challenge you mentally can also be stressful.

All jobs can be stressful. It depends on your definition of stress, the particularities of your position, your coworkers, your clients, your company, your boss, your salary, your region, your family, etc, etc.

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It can be very stressful, but that depends on your workplace and the expectations placed upon you.

If you work for a company marketing department that has a constant flow of lead-gen driven deadlines, you can often feel the brunt of that. Reason is that the designer is usually the last person to work on something before it goes out the door (ads, email campaigns etc). This often gives the impression that you are the hold up - the "Why hasn't this gone out yet?" speech from a supervisor who considers an explanation "an excuse". It is just the nature of management squeezing everyone and it compiling on you to perform a miracle at the end to hit an unrealistic deadline.

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There are some nice things about graphic design:

  • You can do it with relatively little equipment: a computer you probably will want to have anyway, some software, maybe a tablet. Not much else.

  • Because of that, it's a field that can be learned on your own time, in your own home, at your own pace (if that's how you want to learn it.) There are plenty of interesting books and case studies to look through.

  • Since what you do is laid out visually, you can discuss your projects and designs, even carrying around a little gallery of your work on your smartphone. Pretty much anyone can understand and appreciate it, or be used to get feedback.

The strong appeal coming from these areas also produce some weaknesses:

  • There are a lot of people who think graphic design is fun and want to do it. As such it is very competitive.

  • The competition produces a lot of price pressure on designers--and a correlated amount of frustration. This can often lead to bad attitudes and interactions, coming from a certain immature personality type, who look to "protect their turf" instead of engaging aspiring new designers about improving their work. (I hope those types are guided to adjust their attitude, else be shown the door on GraphicDesign SE.)

  • Because the world most people know of is full of mediocre graphic design...from badly printed menus to signs at strip malls...there can be a large problem of customer education. Customers vaguely know the design component of perception and marketing is very important, just not what parts are important. It reminds me of how many people try to make movies and spend way too much on cameras, and way too little on sound.

(Note: Required reading would be the Oatmeal's famous "How a web design goes straight to Hell" and viewing of "Stop sign designed by committee".)

As far as career guidance - I would suggest to almost any young person with an interest in music, writing, arts, film of any kind: If you aren't a prodigy who has achieved great critical success in these areas prior to college, or are not otherwise independently wealthy, don't pursue these as a first degree or certification. They can be tough career paths, and being forced into it as a job can possibly ruin the fun parts.

For instance: if you get a business degree and don't slack on sharpening your graphic design skills in your spare time (here and elsewhere)...that puts you in a strong and versatile position.

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